It's not worrrrrrrking.
Mitt Romney's strategy to topple President Barack Obama has been to make the race a referendum on the president's record. It's a reasonable approach—the president has failed to turn around the economy, build support for his healthcare legislation, or end Washington gridlock.
But Romney has gone about as far on this strategy as he can go. Polls have remained amazingly consistent for weeks. Not even the president's "You didn't build that" gaffe in Roanoke—or his clumsy attempt to clean it up—have moved the needle. Taken out of context? Ha. Charles Krauthammer is right. Let's run that speech on an endless loop right through Election Day. Americans need to understand precisely the context of those remarks.
In head-to-head polling, Obama draws about 46 percent. As Sean Trende noted in RealClearPolitics this week, that is about as low as a major-party candidate can go. Moreover, two-thirds of voters say they already know all they need to know about both candidates, and 90 percent say they know all they need to know about Obama.
All that's left for Romney is to tell voters more about himself. He doesn't talk about his many charitable acts because he wants the credit for those to come from God, not the electorate. Fine. He avoids discussing his Mormon faith to shield himself and his church from uncomfortable scrutiny. Fine again.
He doesn't want to discuss his time as governor of Massachusetts because then he'll have to explain the differences between his healthcare plan and ObamaCare. That can wait until the presidential debates.
But what he can discuss, what he absolutely must discuss, what the timing could not be more perfect to discuss, is his time as head of the Salt Lake Olympics. When Romney entered the scene, the 2002 Winter Games were in danger of being canceled because of the ineptitude of the local organizing committee. He came in, cut unneeded programs, reconfigured others, and delivered a smashing success for the nation and the world.
Telling this story during the London Olympics would fulfill a variety of needs for his campaign. It would pivot to the positive at a time voters are tiring of relentless negativity. It would move the conversation away from Bain, the Caymans, and ostentatious wealth and toward one about successfully managing big enterprises, winning cooperation from disparate and sometimes-hostile groups and bringing about a sharp and quick turnaround. And it will come at a time when the political space is relatively clear and water-cooler conversations are focused on the Olympics.
It's almost impossible to describe how difficult it is to turn around an Olympics in the short time Romney had. The movement thrives on largesse and excessive ring-kissing. Its leaders expect lavish treatment and "consultation" on every move. It is Washington on steroids, and it would not be hard for Romney to demonstrate how his success in Utah might translate to bigger things.
Yes, the president's campaign will respond. It will point out the Salt Lake uniforms were made in Burma and the records of Romney's involvement have yet to be made public. The president's super PAC already has released an ad that links Romney the Olympic executive to Romney the internationally focused business mogul. But these attacks will be received as what they are—petty attempts to knock down real accomplishments by a president with few to his credit.
The time to go for the gold is now. Obama's approval rating among undecideds is in the low 20s. Persuadable voters are looking for a reason to support Romney. He's unlikely to come across a better one between now and November.
- Read Peter Roff: London 2012 Olympics Should Honor Munich 1972’s Israeli Martyrs
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